No Country For Old Men

  1. Analysis of the book

Through the three main characters of this novel, Sheriff Ed Tom Bell, Anton Chigurh, and Llewelyn Moss, Cormac McCarthy produces a novel about morality and pride. Each character represents a different peg on the ladder of morality starting with  Bell at the top and Chigurh at the bottom. Bell is an officer fueled by a moral compass and an ability to see when he is in over his head, while Moss is an ordinary man whose desire for wealth and power leads him to his death as a ring of drug dealers try to steal the money back that he found, with Chigurh being the least moral as he is a ruthless killer who decides to murder on impulse or a coin flip. With the morality of the characters always in question this becomes the center of the novel, and as such pride is right behind it as some characters can’t see their role in a larger immoral scheme.


  1. Analysis of the film

Through the focus on the morally indecisive Moss, the film reals in the audience to go through Moss’ decisions. The first decision Moss is shown to make is that of taking the money from a drug deal gone bad which is the catalyst for the rest of the plot. With Moss’ morality in question, the rest of his decisions can either complicate or help solve this predicament he got himself into. With Moss in the middle of the moral sheriff Bell and the immoral killer Chigurh, Moss stands in for the audience who struggles with moral decisions in their everyday life. The film also focuses around the theme of elders becoming outdated and their ways of thinking dying along with them as new beliefs and waves of trends flooding the modern day shown when the sheriff in El Paso says “kids with green hair and bones in their noses.” This kind of attitude that is seen as separate from modern day thinking can be construed as a prideful way of thought since some elders, like Moss, believe themselves to be smarter, faster and better than others due to their previous experience which is part of the reason Moss makes sure poor decisions and hubris. 


  1. Analysis of the adaptation

The focus of the film shifts the one from the book unto Moss instead of having all three characters be protagonists that are focused on equally. The move from Bell to Moss becomes a move for the audience to decide what is and is not moral. Bell shows himself to be inherently more moral than Moss as he follows the clear compass of an officer during his role in the novel and is able to recognize his role in the larger scheme of the crime and that he and Moss are in over their heads because he is not as prideful as Moss. The move to focus on Moss is one that allows the audience to see a moral struggle that they can relate to through personal experience, as it is hard to find someone whose motivations are so clear-cut in the right direction. As Moss struggles with the decision and repercussions of taking the money after he found the scene of a drug deal gone bad. Bell tries to warn Moss of his hubris and that in this case, he is in over his head, but it is too late and because of this the audience is able to struggle through the moral decisions of Moss in the movie than if the entire film was narrated my Bell as the book was. 



  1. Online research

This source speaks to the shift of the focus of characters from the book to the movie. The wordpress blog’s author says that the change from Bell to Moss hugely influences the plot.

This source describes the message of the movie as having each person decide their own fate through a series of choices that is like a coin toss of the outcome.

According to this source the main message of the movie and novel is a sort of coming of age tale in which the audience is cautioned to make a move from outdated beliefs to the more eternal spiritual and religious beliefs that many people grab hold of in their elder years. It also suggests that Chigurh, Moss, and Bell are all representative of the different sides of the same person, only in extremes.


  1. Critical Argument

A landscape can be more than just a physical arena in which events take place and just like this word has a dual meaning so can the word “country” in reference to the novel and film No Country for Old Men. When this phrase is said in reference to the characters of the film and novel it is saying that these older men no longer have a physical use for them in the society where they live just as much as their outdated ideas are being pushed out and turned irrelevant. This is why they are outsmarted and outmatched by the drug dealers, the ‘bad guys’ who in typical action movies succumb to the power of good in one way or another, while in this plot they overtake the older men. One of the most powerful lines in this film comes from Chigurh in the form of a question as he asks “If the rule you followed brought you to this, of what use was the rule?” which shows that the physically and morally dangerous place the drug crime scene landed Bell, Chigurh, and Moss in is the result of following the rules of their outdated pride and beliefs than are they are not good social and moral rules to follow. The three main characters Bell, Chigurh, and Moss come to symbolize three components of the same person who are conceived through different decisions resulting in the three characters portrayed. Through their individual actions and different moral laws they follow Bell is the moral sheriff on the side of the law and justice who tries to protect Moss, while Chigurh is his complete opposite and Moss is caught in the middle.

These three different kinds of men all end up in the same situation because they are all following outdated laws and moral codes which leads them to this situation. They need to adopt some aspects of each other to be balanced and able to live successfully in the world in which they live.


  1. It’s interesting that in your argument, you considered the meaning of “country” in the title. I did the same for “old men.” I think you and I are of like mind on the matter of the title being a metaphor for aging and the rule of law.

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